The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte a few weeks ago and took effect on July 18. The law intends to prohibit and penalize terrorism in the country and effectively repeals the Human Security Act of 2007. However, many lawyers are deeming this law as unconstitutional as it has an overbroad definition of what terrorism is.
According to the law, an individual is considered to be doing an act of terrorism if they are “engaging in acts that intend to cause death or serious bodily injury” to another individual or “engaging in acts that intend to cause extensive damage and destruction to a government or public facility,” among others. (Read: What Will Happen If The Anti-Terrorism Bill Gets Signed Into Law?)
However, what worries the public most is Section 4 of the law which defines terrorism. According to the provision, terrorism “shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action and other similar exercises of civil and political rights, which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life or to create a serious risk to public safety.” This meant that even simple rallies can be considered an act of terrorism. (Read: Caritas PH on Anti-Terror Bill: ‘Activism is not Terrorism’)
Many civic and lawyers’ groups have already filed petitions to declare the controversial bill as unconstitutional. Among them are former Supreme Court (SC) Justices Conchita Carpio-Morales and Antonio Carpio, together with several Constitutional Law Professors from the UP College of Law. The petition from the SC justices and law professors is the 11th of 15 petitions filed against the Anti-Terrorism Act. (Read: John Lloyd, Maria Ressa Star in Video Protest Against Anti-Terror Law)
According to the petitioners, they are all for supporting the government in preventing terrorism, but they want it to be through constitutional means. Retired Justice Antonio Carpio even gave an example of how the Anti-Terror Law is dangerous for anyone who speaks out. (Read: Did the CBCP Violate the Separation of Church and State in Pastoral Letter?)
Known as a staunch advocate for the Philippines’s claim on the West Philippine Sea, Carpio pointed out that anyone advocating for the same issue may be considered as a “terrorist,” since it can be interpreted as an individual is trying to “provoke the government into changing its foreign policy and endanger lives by escalating tensions with the Chinese.” (Read: Retired Justice Antonio Carpio’s West PH Sea Lecture Now Available Online)
The justices’ petition has been filed online and will be physically filed today, July 23. Some of the previous petitioners were former Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casiño, journalist Vergel Santos, Bayan Muna Secretary-General Renato Reyes, Jr., former DSWD undersecretary Malou Turalde-Jarabe, and former UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan.